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Ray Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Ray is punctuated by death and loss. One of the central episodes in Ray stands as a virtual paradigm for the entire novel. Sister Hooch, a daughter of an impoverished couple and passionate lover of Ray himself, struggles to achieve fame through her singing. But almost as soon as she finally has her hit record and earns for herself some ease, the local Baptist minister kills her. Death is close at hand, familiar, unexpected, inevitable.

Ray lives in constant awareness and defiance of death. Life for him is a commercial airliner about to crash; it falls to Ray to take the controls, order another double vodka, and safely crash-land. Ray's lust for life — for sex, pleasure, and happiness — affirms life and, at least momentarily, cheats death.

To Ray, death and "Constant Misery" are as much a part of the human reality as life and happiness. He does virtually anything he can to relieve suffering and unhappiness. He gladly supplies the Hooches with the morphine and Valium that ease their pain. Sex, like laughter, is clearly a restorative in Ray. After a bout with depression and hatred, Ray says, "Then I met Sister [Hooch] and my trust came back, my body was flooded with hope." Later, sex and laughter are what Ray prescribes to cure others of despair as well.